St Andrews, a quiet little town on the East Coast of Scotland, located between the cities of Dundee and Edinburgh. If you are a golfer, you probably know of St Andrews, as it is renowned as being the home of golf.
However, St Andrews with 7 public golf courses, is more than golfing, as it has one of UK’s premier universities and during the summer months is a bustling family tourist resort – beaches, caravan parks, harbour, castle, cathedral and coastal path, to name but a few of the attractions.
One fine morning, rather than walking around the roads and fields of Strathkinness, I elected to walk around St Andrews and back to our village of Strathkinness.
- Total Distance – 9 miles
- Elevation gain – 850+ feet
- Time – 3 hours
My dad dropped me next to the Student’s Union building (one of my old haunts), on St Mary’s Place/Market Street. I headed west to the bus station on City Road (A915), taking the ramp down to the old railway tracks. The St Andrews Railway ceased operations in 1969 and the old tracks are now a car park, which leads to the university buildings on the St Andrews/Cupar Road (A91).
Entrance to the newer St Andrews Uni buildings
I crossed the A91/Links Crescent, at the roundabout, heading towards the Old Course Hotel. On the left is a huge playing field.
Madras College Playing Fields
Containing 4 rugby and 5 field hockey pitches, these were my school’s playing fields. Located on South Street, the school had no green spaces, so for field sports, we took the mile long trek down here. No football, only rugby & field hockey.
From the playing fields, I crossed over to Old Station Road, in front of the Jigger Inn, which was the old station master’s house and dates from the 1850’s. I have many fond memories of the Jigger Inn, which was one of my regular haunts.
The Jigger Inn overlooks the infamous 17th fairway, green and road hole bunker.
Old Course 17th green & road hole bunker
Many a round of golf has been lost on the Road Hole, an almost 500 yard par 4, that many consider the world’s most challenging, especially when the wind blows. On the above photo, the bunker before the green is about 6′ high and has an almost vertical face. If I ended up in this bunker I never bothered with a club, as throwing the ball out was the only viable option. The green is also very narrow, so any long approach ends on the road, or even worse, up against the wall. Yep, you guessed correctly, yet another throw.
Old Course Hotel and 17th fairway
Above photo shows the easiest stretch of the 17th fairway, however getting to this stretch is a challenge. From the 17th tee, the pros hit over the Old Course sheds to reach this stretch of fairway. I recall the distance was over 250 yards to the sheds. However, at the corner they also have a fairway bunker, for us mere mortals that couldn’t hit 250 yards back in the 1970’s.
View of the 18th from about the tee
Continuing along Old Station Road and up “The Links”, provides some exceptional views of the Old Course. Back in 1970, during the Open Championship, I still recall sitting in a grandstand at the back of the 18th green and watching Jack Nicklaus driving through the green to the grass verge.
Looking across the 18th and 1st at “The Himalayas” putting green. If visiting St Andrews and you can’t get a round on the Old Course, visiting The Himalayas is a must. The undulating course; some call it mountainous, is challenging, but loads of fun for all ages. Cost is UKP 2.00
From Jigger Inn looking back down the Old Course at the 2nd/3rd
1st green with Clubhouse for New & Jubilee Courses in background
The above noted courses were not my favourite, as they are rather narrow, with extensive gorse down the sides of the fairways. While I could hit a fair distance, I couldn’t guarantee it went straight, so I preferred the wider Old Course and Eden.
Two views of the Swilken Bridge
The over 700 year old iconic stone arched Swilken Bridge spans the Swilcan Burn, and was reportedly built for shepherds to get their livestock across the burn.
Golden Oldie from July 1970
The above photo shows the transformation during the Open Championship, with the 1st and 18th ringed with grandstands on 3 sides.
Heading up The Links, I crossed over the 1st and 18th fairways on the road, heading over to the West Sands. Yes, you can actually walk and even drive across the Old Course fairway.
West Sands beach with Swilcan Burn
This is an amazing fine, golden sand beach that stretches for about 2 miles. It slopes gradually into the water and is a really easy water entry, suitable for kids of all ages. To the rear of the beach sand dunes stretch the entire length, with a road and tons of parking. The golf courses start on the other side of the road and parking. The day we visited, parking was free.
West Sands stretching as far as the eye can see
Family holiday to West sands in August 1968
Once across the Old Course, you can enjoy a pleasant stroll along W Sands Road; however, I headed back to town on Bruce Embankment.
Old Course practice putting green
Bruce Embankment curves around the Old Course practice putting green. The above photo shows golfers warming-up, while waiting for their tee-off time. Behind the putting green is the Royal & Ancient (R&A) Clubhouse. Walking past the clubhouse and checking out the old leather chairs in the ground floor lounge, is definitely worth the effort.
I then headed through the public car park and up the hill to The Scores, or hotel row.
View from public car park up the hill to The Scores
Lawn and flower gardens along The Scores
View of West Sands from The Scores
Now the Aquarium, this used to be the open air swimming pool – yuk, salt water
The section of “The Scores” closest to the golf course is what I refer to as hotel row, so during the summer months expect to see a plethora of tour buses dropping off or picking up their passengers. Continuing along The Scores, you pass through another area almost entirely owned by the University, however, these are all older stone buildings dating from the 1800’s and early 1900’s.
As the road transitions to East Scores, on the left is St Andrews Castle, or at least the remains. Originally built about 1200, it started falling into disrepair in the mid 1600’s. You can still see the dungeon dug into solid rock and the mine tunnel, which goes under the current road.
Entrance into the Castle
Entrance to the grounds is via the giftshop/ticket booth and it costs UKP 6.00
Entrance to the mine tunnel
Provided you’re not claustrophobic, the tunnel is definitely worth a visit, as it goes through solid rock underneath the current road.
St Andrews Castle Beach
Immediately after the Castle is a ramp down to a small beach, with a small secluded sandy area. It is surrounded with rocks and isn’t the best for entering the water, but if you just want to sit, or play on the beach, this is normally way quieter than the other beaches.
St Andrews Castle from the beach
It is a fairly easy climb back up to the E Scores, where I continued towards the Cathedral and Harbour.
Entering The Pends, looking back at The Castle
The road becomes a path along the top of the cliff, with railing on one side and a series of bushes, benches and greenery on the other.
Strolling along The Pends with Cathedral in background
Remains of St Mary’s on the Rock Church
The dotted lines show the footprint of the church, which was built in the 1200’s, but did not survive the Scottish Reformation in the 1500’s.
After the church ruins, The Pends drop down rather steeply towards the harbour.
View of the harbour breakwater from The Pends, at top of cliff
Seen at low tide, the harbour is virtually dry, since it is only fed by the Kinness Burn that runs immediately in front of our house in Strathkinness. Continuing down the hill, I wandered out to the end of the breakwater, then around the outer harbour, crossing over to the East Sands.
Outer harbour fishing fleet aground at low tide
Outer harbour and surrounding colourful houses
Inner Harbour at low tide
After crossing the bridge, you have a gentle incline to the promenade around the East Sands.
East Sands looking back at the harbour and cathedral
East Sands Beach
Smaller than the West Sands, this is located in a curved bay between the harbour and caravan park at Kinkell Braes. However, it has a similar fine, golden sand and is gently sloping with an easy entry into the water. This beach is equally great for kids and the young at heart.
At the rear of the beach, a paved promenade follows the beach around to the caravan park in the distance.
Approaching Kinkell Braes Caravan Park
We visited this campground many times before moving to St Andrews, with our last visit being 1970.
Our caravan & Hillman Imp July1968
Andy, mum and spaniel Rory – July 1968
In the past 50 years, the hill up to the caravan park has grown substantially in elevation, as I recall running up and down it multiple times a day. Now it is almost a 25% grade.
Panorama & wide angle photos from the promenade
At this point I retraced my steps along the beach, through the harbour and up to South Street. I then continued out to Strathkinness, via Hepburn Gardens and Strathkinness Low Road.
However, you can continue along the Fife Coastal Path, which is a path along the coast between the Tay & Forth Estuaries. Total length is 117 miles. I had previously ventured along the Coastal Path, from St Andrews, completing about 4 miles before turning around. It has some good inclines and is rough going in a few places. Some areas are only passable at low tide.